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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What I Learned From A Simple Redwood Tree

 My shoulders kept bending ever backward as I stood and looked at the giant trees standing all around me. Trees so tall you couldn't see their tops. The breeze rustled gently through their mighty branches and whispered a strange peace. It was my first time of visiting the majestic Muir Woods in California. I'd never laid eyes on a natural site such as this ever before. A creek ran trickling down through the middle of the paths on either side of its banks. Birds sang out a cheerful chorus. Two baby foxes played happily along the side of the path, oblivious to the dozens of people passing by their den. The whole scene spoke of tranquility and soul-refreshing wonder...of delight in a Creator whose ways take the human breath away. 
 I happened on a talk that one of the park rangers was giving to the eager tourists. He educated them on the uniqueness of the redwood trees and how the Muir Woods were discovered. However, one thing he said got my mind to thinking...and I honestly didn't hear much of the talk after this. Redwood trees are unique in that fire doesn't damage them - they're essentially un-burnable. Indestructible. Unlike most kinds of trees which burn up and die when a forest fire strikes them, redwoods actually need to be burned from time to time in order to grow and become strong. They thrive on the heat and the flames. The char marks on some of the trees, the ranger said, were from nearly a hundred years ago, but the tree withstood the burn and bears the scars of its survival. 


 The spiritual analogy was too strong of one for me to pass up: the fires of life come upon all of us. We each find ourselves facing tests and circumstances that threaten to burn us right through, to destroy the last bit of life in us and leave us for dead. But, unlike the trees which have no choice as to their kind and how they will handle the fire, we do have a choice as to which type we will be. When such adversities and tests happen to us, will we allow ourselves to be like those that burn straight through and cannot withstand the heat? Or will be like the redwood which thrives on the flames, which stands strong in the times of its testing? Which, when its droughts come, will put out more roots to find its needed moisture to replenish itself? 
 God allows things to occur in our lives so that we will discover what kind of tree we are. So that we will find out if our roots are deep and secure or weak and shallow. So that we will come to understand how to form thick bark that is un-burnable, indestructible. So that we may one day come to grow into a scarred thing of beauty which reflects strength. 
Whatever tests you may be going through right now in your life, choose to welcome the fiery trying of your faith. Through such trials, God enables us to grow and, therefore, become monuments to His grace. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

"When I enumerate our many mercies, it is with deep humility that I look back on my past life and discover so little gratitude and so much unworthiness. How much has sovereign grace done for me! Though I have solemnly professed to find consolation in religion, do I derive my hopes of happiness only from God? Yet how often have I roved in the world in quest of pleasure and dishonored the best of masters by an unholy life. 
How ungrateful have I been for the common mercies of life and for the still more precious blessings of the Holy Spirit. May ever temporal blessing that your heart can wish be yours. But whatever is the trial through which you may be called to pass, may that heaven-born religion attend you that you can sweeten the bitter cup of life, afford you joy in this vale of tears, support you in nature's last extremity, and conduct you to the heavenly Canaan, where undisturbed happiness will ever reign. Life is but a vapor. Whether we spend it in tranquility and ease or in pain and suffering, time will soon land us on the shores of eternity to our destined home."
                      - Harriet Newell in Seasons Of The Heart

Friday, May 19, 2017

Vision in the Valley

The Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, 
Where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
Hemmed in by mountains of sin, I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
That to be low is to be high, 
That the broken heart is the healed heart, 
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
That to have nothing is to possess all,
That to bear the cross is to where the crown,
That to give is to receive,
That the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells, the brighter Thy stars shine;
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.
Amen.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I hope your soul prospers. I do not ask you if you are always filled with sensible comfort: but do you find your spirit more bowed down to the feet and will of Jesus, so as to be willing to serve Him for the sake of serving Him, to follow Him, as we say, through thick and thin; to be willing to be anything or nothing, so that He may be glorified? 
I could give you plenty of good advice upon this head; but I am ashamed to do it, because I so poorly follow it myself. I want to live with him by the day, to do all for Him, to make Him my hiding-place and my resting-place. I want to deliver up that rebel self to Him in chains; but the rogue, like Proteus, puts on so many forms, that he slips through my fingers: but I think I know what I would do if I could fairly catch him." 
                     - John Newton

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The best saint when he looks at himself becomes unhappy; he sees things that should not be there, and if you and I spend our whole time looking at ourselves we shall remain in misery, and we shall lose the joy. Self-examination is alright, but introspection is bad. Let us draw the distinction between these two things. We can examine ourselves in light of Scripture, and if we do that we shall be driven to Christ. But with introspection a man looks at himself and continues to do so, and refuses to be happy until he gets rid of the imperfections that are still there. Oh, the tragedy that we should spend our lives looking at ourselves instead of looking at Him who can set us free!"
                     - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"When a man truly sees himself, he knows nobody can say anything about him that is too bad."
                  - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Friday, May 12, 2017

Weakness Is Powerful

Beautiful. And no words needed to add to this. Don't be afraid of your failures and weakness. There is too much grace in God for us to run from ourselves. He will do big things through people that know they can be nothing apart from His enabling. 




Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...It is best to believe that a daily portion of comforts and crosses, each one the most suitable to your case, is adjusted and appointed by the Hand that was once nailed to the cross for us; that where the path of duty and prudence leads, there is the best situation we could possibly be in at that juncture."
                        - John Newton 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I wish you much comfort from David's thought, Psalm 142:3: 'When my spirit is overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path.' The Lord is not withdrawn to a great distance, but His eye is upon you, and He sees you not with the indifference of a mere spectator; but He observes with attention, He knows, He considers your path: yea, He appoints it, and every circumstance about it is under His direction. Your trouble began at the hour He saw best: it could not come before, and He has marked the degree of it to a hair's breadth, and the duration to the minute. He knows likewise how your spirit is affected; and such supplies of grace and strength, and in such seasons as He sees needful, He will afford. So that when things appear darkest, you shall still be able to say, 'Though chastened, not killed.' Therefore, hope in God, for you shall yet praise Him."
                       - John Newton

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Gospel Makes A Way

 This song has really spoken to me lately as I look at the broken world within and without me. So many evidences of the hopelessness of humanity...so many reminders that we have no chance at a life worthwhile apart from the Giver Himself. Honestly, we can't even approach God in the right spirit if He doesn't grant the faith and grace to do so. We have not chosen to follow God without Him first planting the desire for a better way. He begins and ends it all. Such a mind-blowing concept that is! The God of the Universe knew me and loved me before time began and picked me to be His child! That thought should be all we need to give us meaning in this desperate world. I know sometimes it's hard to believe and that faith often runs out, but God always comes through. Even in the worst moments this thing called life offers us, He comforts us with the truth that we are always loved, and He is forever good. Our sin is never so great that His grace is not greater. Our hearts are never so broken that He cannot and will not mend them. Our failures and regrets are never so big that His love is not bigger still. Truly,

"In a world where our hearts are breaking,
And we're lost in the mess we've made,
Like a blinding light in the dead of night
It's the Gospel that makes a way!"

And for that, we can and should be forever thankful! 


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I am profoundly grateful to God that He did not grant me certain things for which I asked, and that He shut certain doors in my face."
                       - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Friday, May 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It is indeed natural to us to wish and to plan, and it is merciful in the Lord to disappoint our plans, and to cross our wishes. For we cannot be safe, much less happy, but in proportion as we are weaned from our own wills, and made simply desirous of being directed by His guidance. This truth (when we are enlightened by His Word) is sufficiently familiar to the judgement; but we seldom learn to reduce it into practice, without being trained awhile in the school of disappointment. The schemes we form look so plausible and convenient, that when they are broken we are ready to say, 'what a pity!' We try again, and with no better success; we are grieved, and perhaps angry, and pan out another, and so on: at length, in a course of time, experience and observation begin to convince us, that we are not more able than we are worthy to choose aright for ourselves. Then the Lord's invitation to cast our cares upon Him, and His promise to take care of us, appear valuable; and when we have done planning, His plan in our favor gradually opens, and He does more and better for us than we could either ask or think. I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, of which I have not since seen reason to be satisfied, that, had it taken place in season and circumstance just as I proposed, it would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or, at least, it would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me. We judge of things by their present appearances, but the Lord sees them in their consequences: if we could do so likewise, we should be perfectly of His mind; but as we cannot, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is spoken of as one of His heaviest judgements, when He gives any person or people up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk after their own counsels."
                                - John Newton

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It is when we have come to the end of our own resources, or rather, to see that we never had any at all, that we are willing to accept the fact that we can do nothing and let God do everything for us."
                          - Frances Ridley Havergal in Seasons Of The Heart

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"When means and hope fail, when everything looks dark upon us, when we seem shut up on every side, when we are brought to the lowest ebb, still our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. To Him all things are possible; and before the exertion of His power, when He is pleased to arise and work, all hindrances give way and vanish, like a mist before the sun. And he can so manifest Himself to the soul, and cause His goodness to pass before it, that the hour of affliction shall be the golden hour of the greatest consolation...We have therefore cause for continual praise. The Lord has given us to know His name as a resting-place and a hiding-place, a sun and a shield. Circumstances and creatures may change; but He will be an unchangeable friend."
                         - John Newton 


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our whole error is that we always start with ourselves: 'I want this, that, and the other.' It is the wrong way round. We should start with the kingdom of God...You must start with what God has done, God's plan and purpose..."
                         - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Monday, May 1, 2017

What To Do About Waiting

 I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of waiting. So much of life depends on it and yet there is something in our nature which hates and fights it. 
 This truth has been driven home to me recently in regards to a situation I've been working through. I have this close friend of mine who calls me about every 6-8 weeks to say hello and catch up. He's extremely busy most of the time, so the fact that he makes time to invest in our friendship means the world to me. I always look forward to our calls. And in between our talks, the texts go back and forth and we try to touch base as often as we can. It's hard to describe the friendship but it's one of those that only comes along once in a very great while. He's one of those people that has changed my life in so many ways. I'm honestly spoiled in that he finds the time that he does to show that he cares. 
However, he's a senior in college and is in the last couple crazy weeks of school, the end of the baseball season, preparing for the MLB draft, and wrapping up other activities he's taken on during the school year. I know he's busy, but it's been several weeks since our last communication. And so I've had to wait until he's able to make time to talk again. But, like so many other things I value or want in life, waiting is hard. The selfish part of me wants an answer - I want to hear from him. I don't want to wait. But that's because I'm thinking of me instead of my friend. Thinking of what I want instead of what is best for him. 
 In a spiritual sense, I see that this is often how I look at things with God, too. I want God to do things that are what I want, when I want them done. I insert my will into the equation and demand that I know the best timing and the best way, when what God's really after is my surrender. But I fight that because my human desire takes over and prevents me from desiring the kingdom of God. 
 Trust is the difference. If I trust this earthly friendship, then I wouldn't mind the waiting because I know my friend will get in touch eventually and the reconnecting will be sweet. 
In the same way, if I trust God, then I will be willing to submit to His timing and won't fight the seasons where He offers no response or answer. 
 I must ask God in both cases to give me faith. I want to surrender my fears to Him in full resignation, perfectly okay to be anything, to give up anything, to wait for anything provided that He gets the glory and my selfishness is further captured. I need to get beyond myself in order to experience the best things. 
 Oh Lord, grant me grace to open up my hands and heart. To let go with complete "yes" so that I may be filled with only those blessings which You most desire. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our fears are due to our failure to stir up - failure to think, failure to take ourselves in hand. You find yourself looking to the future and then you begin things and you say, 'I wonder what is going to happen?' And then, imagination runs away with you. You are gripped by the thing; you do not stop to remind yourself of who you are and what you are, this thing overwhelms you and down you go. Now the first thing you have to do is to take a firm grip of yourself, to pull yourself up, to stir up yourself, to take yourself in hand, and to speak to yourself...
You seem to be thinking about yourself and about life and all you have to do as if you were still an ordinary person. But...you are not an ordinary person! You are a Christian, you are born again, the Spirit of God is in you. But you are facing all these things as if you are still what you once were...and is not that the trouble with us all in this connection? 
Though we are truly Christian, though we believe the truth, though we have been born again, though we are certainly children of God, we lapse into this condition in which we again begin to think as if none of these things had happened to us at all. Like the man of the world, the man who has never been regenerated, we allow the future to come to us and dominate us, and we compare our own weakness and lack of strength with the greatness of the calling and the tremendous task before us. And down we go as if we were but our natural selves." 
                      - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Spiritual Depression

Friday, April 28, 2017

Admission

 Every healing begins with an admission. Every turning point starts with a desperation cry.  Every victory is proceeded by a confession of failure - a recognition that it's humanly impossible to overcome the weight of one's own faults and sins. It's the Alcoholics Anonymous first step to getting sober: the ability to admit that one is an alcoholic, not just that one has a drinking problem. Because it's easy to excuse away the deepest weakness of one's flesh when one only faces the problem in part...when one only calls the issue a portion of what it actually is. 
 As many of you are aware, this blog has become a forum of admission for myself and those who read it regularly. (And I hope it becomes more of such in the future!) I speak often of my own failings here because I find that my own experience isn't all that unlike that of my readers...we're all struggling in some way to find progress in our journey to Grace; we're all striving to be a better version of ourselves each day - and falling miserably in the process. But all along, we're discovering an incredibly patient and merciful God whose love continues to forgive and renew us in spite of all the times we come short of who we want to become for Him! He accepts us regardless, yet values us too much to keep us where we are. And so, this blog celebrates failure and the Grace which redeems it (in all of us) on a daily basis. 
 Well...today you're going to get a big admission from me. And perhaps you may make the same yourself: 
 I. Am. A. Fearful. Person. 
I've always had a very confident personality, and I've always been the type who was a can-do individual. I've never shied away from a task I felt was worth tackling and I've always experienced relative success in most things I undertook. As a result, I didn't think of myself as being fearful. I could speak comfortably in front of hundreds of people, write important letters to world leaders, meet new people with ease, etc - all things that many others would find terrifying. 
But then again...I've perhaps disguised my fears more than I realized over the years. In the last decade, I've had many personal experiences that have turned me into a person who is afraid of many things. I'm only recently realizing how many there actually are...
 And I'm also beginning to understand that as much as I ask God for a change of heart, my first response to much of life is set on "Fear." Faith is secondary to it. It takes me much talking to myself to get myself to move beyond the "what if" factor. I question everything. Because I've been hurt enough that I expect even the good things in life to turn sour at some point. Sadly, even as many times as God has demonstrated His willingness to give blessings and good gifts to this child of His, I appreciate it for a short time before switching back to, "Thanks God, but will this also be taken away?" 
 This negative response to even the sweet things of life has placed emotional barriers to my relationships. Even the closest friends in my life have, at some time or another, probably noticed the hesitancy, the resistance, the distance. I've let them in closer than others, yet I still have refused to trust their love to the extent that I should. I have experienced their care and yet still thought on more than one occasion, "Others left, so why wouldn't this person leave at some point too?" My past fears have trickled over into my present fears and my fears of the future. I am a fearful person. 
 More than just the human relationships, I have treated God and His good gifts in my life this way too. Even when He continues to show up and turn all things - the bad and the good - into blessings meant for me as tokens of His love, I still receive them with fear. I am living a question mark instead of an exclamation point. I am a fearful person.
 Now that I've admitted such, I'm also realizing that perhaps now I can find myself advancing a bit in this desire to dare greatly, to do life big, and to face all fears with a mighty faith that only God can give. Victory isn't always achieved by determination. Sometimes one must actually be honest and humble enough to see that they can't achieve what they hope to be without leaving it in God's hands. We all admit that we can't change apart from God, but we often see it as a partnership instead of a sovereign submission. We see as mostly God but with help from us instead of realizing that we have no power of our own to make ourselves transform. We only lead ourselves to our own ruin. God actually needs no assistance from us...only a willing and surrendered heart. And often, He does His best work when we are at our personal end and cannot go any further. Then, He does more because we've become less.
 Claiming defeat in the spiritual life is actually the first step to achieving victory. Reminding ourselves that God fights the battles of our weakness for us and that we need only to stand and be still (Exodus 14:14) is really where we will begin to relax and stop trying so hard to do it on our own. God wants us to give up ...in the sense that we quit trying to do His part and rather accept all of ourselves for His sake. Learn to live with ourselves and be okay with not being okay. I'm not fine, and neither are you. As the great theologian D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, 

"The fact that you have become a Christian does not mean that you cease to have to live with yourself. You will have to live with yourself as long as you are alive, and yourself is your self and not somebody else's self."

We're all broken people living in this fallen world and trying to see through to God, but just  maybe we could find ourselves further along if we simply accept the fact that we will always live with our failures until the day God calls us out of this world. We will struggle with our weaknesses forever till such time as we leave this earth. As much as we wish ourselves to be better people than we are, it's still a fact that we're always be a worse version of ourselves than we'd hope for. Yet we are powerfully loved more than we dare believe. God just may leave us tied to our greatest struggle so that we are forever reminded of His necessary provision and grace in our lives. 
 My biggest struggle is fear. I. Am. A. Fearful. Person. I'm asking God for greater trust yet realizing I'll keep failing in that belief because I'm a sinner. Thank God for grace though, right?! 
I don't know what you're issue is. You may be only recently discovering it, or it may have traveled with you for a very long time. Either way, remember that there is enough grace in God to accept even the worst part of yourself and surrender to the Healer's touch. Don't be afraid to admit the worst about yourself. Because God already knows about it - and He died for all of it on the cross. Your defeat is His victory. Your loss is Heaven's gain. You are not responsible for your own life-change, and it's perfectly alright to be mistrusting of yourself. Because that's where faith can blossom and God's ability can shine through!



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"How happy is that state of a believer, to have a sure promise that all shall work together for good in the end, and, in the mean time sure refuge where to find present relief, support, and protection! How comfortable is it, when trouble is near, to know that the Lord is near likewise, and to commit ourselves and all our cares simply to Him, believing that His eye is upon us, and His ear open to our prayers. Under the conduct of such a Shepherd, we need not fear, although we are called to pass through fire and water, through the valley of the shadow of death, He will be with us, and will show Himself mighty on our behalf!"
                         - John Newton

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Hide yourself under the shadow of His wings; rely upon His care and power; look upon Him as a physician who has graciously undertaken to heal your soul of the worst of sicknesses, sin. Yield to His prescriptions, and fight against every thought that would represent it as desirable to be permitted to choose for yourself. When you cannot see your way, be satisfied that He is your leader. When your spirit is overwhelmed within you, He knows your path: He will not leave you to sink. He has appointed seasons of refreshment, and you shall find that He does not forget you. Above all, keep close to the throne of grace. 
I pray that you may be enabled more and more to honor the Lord, by believing His promise: for He is not like a man, that should fail or change, or be prevented by anything unforeseen from doing what He has said...
Here is the mercy - that His ways are above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. Though we are foolish and unbelieving, He remains faithful; He will not deny Himself. I recommend to you especially that promise of God, which is so comprehensive that it takes in all our concernments, I mean, that all things shall work together for good. How hard it is to believe, that not only those things which are grievous to the flesh, but even those which draw forth our corruptions and discover to us what is in our hearts, and fill us with guilt and shame, should in the issue work for our good! Yet the Lord has said it! All your pains and trials, all that befalls you in your own person, or that affects you upon the account of others, shall in the end prove to your advantage. And your peace does not depend upon any change of circumstances which may appear desirable, but in having your will bowed to the Lord's will, and made willing to submit all to His disposal and management."
                         - John Newton

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Grace To Fail

 I was up at 3am the other morning and couldn't sleep. I've battled a health issue for several months that makes it hard for me to sleep through the night sometimes, so I took the opportunity to pray and read a little. 
 Lately, I've been living in the writings of John Newton - his words give me permission to be okay with not being okay and to accept all my failings as opportunities for God's grace to drive deeper in my life. I'm currently working through a book that highlights this truth called Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid. My eyes fell the other night on a paragraph with a powerful (and convicting) statement. As she details a struggle she'd be having with sin in her life, she talks about a conversation she had with her counselor, Margaret: 

"I sat in Margaret's home and poured out my heart to her. I went on for quite awhile as she listened compassionately and jotted down some notes. After our first session ended, she looked calmly into my puffy, reddened eyes and gave me a peculiar kind of hope. She said, 'Barbara, God is going to pour His grace into you. He will either give you grace to change and to grow in these two areas of great struggle with sin, or He will give you the grace to stay the same and survive your failure." 

While I embrace the fact that I know God wants us all to be improving in our lives and facing our fears and weaknesses with faith and dependence upon Him, I am also beginning to realize that much of our discontentment in our lives stems from the simple fact that we think we should be further along than we are. We cannot live with ourselves. We cannot be okay with the fact that we are not okay. And we just can't ever seem to entertain the thought that God sometimes doesn't fix us completely so that we'll have greater reminders of our need for His grace. We carry with us the remnants of a fallen sin nature that, while it doesn't rule us eternally anymore, still rears its ugliness and keeps us in a constant state of humility. But perhaps the key to combatting such failures in the spiritual life isn't trying harder, doing more, aiming higher, and striving for ultimate victory but rather in simply getting close to ourselves and realizing that we can't become who we ideally would like to be. "The model Christian" doesn't actually exist. And the only way we can find ourselves further along than before is by the gradual disciplines of a gracious God who scourges for our benefit and allows us to be tried and tested for our growth and His eventual glory. 
 So...this week...whatever it is you're struggling with, know this: God may or may not remove that thing in your life you've been battling, but He will give you grace either way. Grace to change, or grace to deal with ongoing failure. But regardless of how He sees fit to deal with your failings, be comforted that His forgiveness will forever run full and free on your behalf!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Whatever believers may be separated from, enough remains. None can take Christ from the believer: none can take the believer from Him; and that is enough." 
                    - Matthew Henry

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened."
                          - George Mueller 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The innumerable comforts and mercies with which He enriches even those we call darker days, are sufficient proofs that He does not willingly grieve us: but when He sees a need-be for chastisement, He will not withhold it because He loves us; on the contrary, that is the very reason why He afflicts."
                           - John Newton

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Counting the Cost

 It's been a difficult few weeks. So much has happened recently that has led me to greater depths of knowledge over my own need, sorrow for the brevity of human life, deeper conviction that Christ is the cure for all our soul's diseases - if only we will let Him mend us in all our broken pieces. As a result of what's gone on lately, I have come to a place of realizing that the cost is great when you surrender to the leading of God. He will take you places where you will often find yourself uncomfortable, lonely, struggling, afraid, and fearful as your human heart fights His direction. You may even find yourself abandoned by others who do not desire the same holiness as you. But with every adversity He allows, He brings with it a fuller understanding of who we are and why He is always the answer. Our place isn't to question Him, it's to obey - willingly, and with open hands. That's so easier said than done. I love my comfort zone, and I do everything I can to stay there. But that's not what following Jesus is about. It's stepping out in faith and facing your biggest uncertainties, your greatest fears, with the assurance and peace that only He can give. His paths will likely lead you to situations that cross your own desires...but whoever said that following Him was about us and our happiness anyway?!? 
 I don't know what He's asking you to let go of or what change is ahead for you, but I do want to encourage you that in your wilderness moments, you will see God. If you keep your heart open, He will show you hidden blessings and miracles that you will miss otherwise. Following Him won't always be the most pleasant thing because you'll find yourself treading difficult paths for His sake. But don't run from His plan simply because you don't like it...run toward it because you'll discover it was the best plan all along! 


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What We Can Do In A World Consumed By Division

In light of the recent news headlines of shootings, a high-profile former athlete committing suicide this morning, church divisions and other things going on in our world, I felt I had to post this...

As most of you readers know, I don't tend to post on divisive topics. While I do realize that the truth is, in and of itself, divisive in a hostile world that hates God, I try to present the truth to my readers in the least aggressive and threatening way possible. Because we're all on equal ground when it comes to matters of the heart and soul - we've all fallen greatly, and we all need a Savior who will rescue us and give us life. As a result, I feel like this knowledge puts us in a unique and special place to dialogue issues here on this blog. Nobody is above anybody else. We're all on this journey to grace together. 
 That being said, I'm increasingly feeling led to address the escalating division that is sweeping our nation and our culture at large. All one has to do is turn on the news and see people picketing, people yelling, people destroying property and souls...all for the sake of what they believe to be true and just. It's happening everywhere. There can no longer be simply a civil disagreement, a discussion sown in respect even while those involved see an issue differently. All that people have been taught to do now is to shout louder than somebody else. To be more aggressive than the other, just so that you're own point is heard and received. There can be no healthy debate or discussion unless one side agrees completely with the other: either embrace my position, or I'll shoot you down and demean you until I've proven that my side to the argument is true. Being right is more important now than loving well.
Sadly, this spirit is becoming associated with people of the Christian faith. Churches are divided over matters of personal interpretation of core values instead of coming together around the shared absolute truth of the God they believe in. And, on top of the issues themselves, church people are no longer watching the manner in which they state their point of view. While the statement may be accurate, the attitude behind may lack in all things compassionate, caring, understanding, and respectful that, for fear of being seen as "tolerant" of a false point of view, people make the other side feel demeaned, disrespected, hurt, and unwanted. 
 Fear. Fear drives us all to become this way. We're either afraid of being too tolerant and not standing up for truth when we should, or we're afraid of being intolerant and unloving, so we say nothing at all. Either approach is wrong. And we're causing people to take sides because of it. We're driving people away from our Jesus because of it. In this, we have made a grave mistake: out of a desire to defend God and His truth, we've lost sight of the tone in which He would have us to speak and act. We have lost sight of the balance of His character and the simple fact that truth offsets love so that they are designed to assist each other.  
 Impatience, too. Oh...the ever-present feeling that we must hurry to make our point. That we don't have time to wait out a potentially lengthy process with someone of differing viewpoint so that our loving way equally draws them to God as our words! So frequently, we let the emotion of the moment get in the way, and we try to win the other side over in a single blow, only causing more hurt and never achieving what we desire. 
 Over the years, I've been involved in many political, church, or social settings where this aggressive approach to making one's point turned a common vested interest of a group into a divided shouting match where both sides only left with hurt hearts. I've seen it too often, and it's got to change. 
 Three examples of the proper way to compassionately make one's point without disrespecting the other person or group changed the way I view a discussion of sensitive sort. 
First, the example of a pastor who once wrote a letter in response to a article he'd read written by a lesbian college professor: When the author of the article received this letter, she later said that she immediately threw it into the trash after reading the pastor's response. He had spoken truth, but she didn't want to hear it. However, something made her pick it out of the garbage and set it aside. Weeks later, she'd be nearly to the point of throwing it away again, but something would make her read it over and over... and save it. Eventually, after quite some time had passed, the professor reached out to the pastor and they met in person at his house to discuss the issue of homosexuality. To make a long story shorter, his kind and sensitive manner over the course of many weeks and months, eventually drew the professor to attend his church...to listen for herself about who this God was that the pastor kept referring to. In time, she left her life as a lesbian and became a Christian. She married and now has several children. She's also become a best-selling author on the topic of how Christians can relate to the homosexual community, detailing her story and her unlikely conversation. (You can read her story in her books Secrets Of An Unlikely Convert and Openness Unhindered.) The gentle and patient approach of that pastor drew her into the community of faith. He was willing to take the risk of reaching out, yet was also willing to answer her many questions in the most gracious yet truthful way possible.
 Second, the example of a college diving coach and one of his athletes. The Olympic-Caliber diver had everything going for him in terms of talent and recognition in the world. He had already been to an Olympics and was still chasing the elusive gold medal he'd always dreamed of. But he also had an insatiable desire for acceptance, and this had led him to the college party scene. Living this dual life of athletic success but also doing drugs, smoking, drinking, and looking for love in all the wrong places had finally caused him to land himself in a very depressed and dissatisfied state of mind. Finding himself one afternoon in bed and contemplating suicide, the diver reached out to a fellow female diver in the same college program as he, having noticed a big change in her life in recent months. She directed him to the diving coach. Desperate for a solution to his problems, he reached out to the coach. He was invited to the coach's house for dinner. Expecting a quick-fix to his depression, he was surprised when the coach and his wife gave him Jesus. But they did so while asking questions and trying to help the young man to come to conclusions of faith on his own. Over several months time, the diver started to realize that what he needed wasn't fame, or the college party scene, or women. What he needed was God's redemption. He surrendered to the Lord some time later and eventually went on to write a book about his experience called Greater Than Gold. He is now happily married and has a little girl and another child on the way. The coach's approach was centered in truth but was equally intentional as it was direct. He was as much concerned with building a relationship with the young man as helping him to see Christ. 
 Lastly, the example of yet another pastor and a former World-class bobsledder. Much like the diver described above, the bobsledder had been living a dual lifestyle during his teen years. He was now around 20 years old and was watching his own father slip away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Angry at the situation, he had thrown himself into his competing and also into hanging out with his familiar crowd of gang members and party-goers. Just shortly before his father would pass away, he went to visit dad at the hospital. Hung over from a hard night of partying, he arrived to find a pastor there at the hospital room. For some time, the pastor had done ministry over at the nearby Olympic training center and had seen the bobsledder and his family around there. Hearing of their situation, he felt led to drive nearly three hours south to visit them and hopefully communicate God's love to them. He knew that they were not Christians, but he wanted to bless them anyway. The young bobsledder was blown away that someone would come that far just to show care to his father and family. After praying with them, the pastor left his card with the bobsledder and told him to reach out anytime. A few months after dad died, the young man thought he should go to the pastor's Bible Study at the Olympic training center as a way to say thank you...more out of obligation than personal curiosity. But upon getting there, he was surprised by the love that was shown to him by those participating. Intrigued by what he experienced, he began to attend more often and built a relationship with the pastor. Fairly soon after that, he quit his addictions and his connections with the gang. While he still struggled, within a couple of years, God had reached the heart of this rebel and, after nearly committing suicide, he dedicated his life to Christ and was baptized soon after...by the pastor who had first reached out to his family. He became a regular attending member of the pastor's church and allowed the pastor to mentor him deeply in his new-found faith. In 2010, about two years after they first met in a hospital room, both would go to the Winter Olympics together - the bobsledder in his sport, and the pastor as the official chaplain for the U.S. Olympic team. It was a culmination of God's goodness and a pastor's willingness to take a leap of faith and lovingly come alongside a hurting young man. 
 One common theme between all of these stories is that, in each case, the Christian had to take a risk. They had to be willing to enter into the pain that each of these people felt. But because that step was rooted in love, they didn't come in with the sole purpose of trying to "fix" the individual. They simply invited them to give God a chance...and they did so in love. They were intentional. They built a relationship that formed trust, giving them a greater platform from which to share God's truth. They came around these people with a shared sense of need before God and great awareness of their own shortcomings and weaknesses. Instead of taking the approach as many do of, "I'm better than you because I have Jesus and you don't..." they took the way of the Master and said, "I'm a sinner too. I have nothing good to offer anyone in this world except what God has given me. I can't fix you, but Jesus can. Let me introduce you to Him." 
 This approach would fix so many of the divisions we see today. We must realize that God doesn't need to be defended. He can defend Himself. He also doesn't need us. He can certainly make Himself known to a hurting world without our help. But He chooses to use us if we make ourselves available to let Him work through us. So often we act as though He isn't capable of speaking for Himself and it takes all of us to convince a hurting world how wrong they are and how much they need God. But in reality, we need Him as much as they.
 Perhaps we can take a step back and re-think the way we reach out to people of differing viewpoint than ourselves. Instead of picketing everything, shouting down the opposition, and being more concerned with winning an argument, maybe we start by showing the care of our Savior.  Instead of beating them over the head with the truth, maybe we start by simply building a relationship. Perhaps simply asking questions of them over coffee, or texting them a word of care, or inviting them over to a meal is where it starts. After all, the biggest complaint from the religious leaders of Jesus' day was that He chose to eat with sinners. He took the humble place...even to the point of washing the feet of the man who would betray Him. Maybe it's time we follow His example and commit ourselves to daring more deeply when it comes to who we reach out to and what we do. Maybe it's time we take a risk of our own and step out of our comfort zone in the way we reach out. Perhaps there is someone that God is putting in your life or your church that needs to be loved on but is feeling turned off by the aggressiveness of those trying to "fix" their problem. Just maybe the change in that person's life starts with you being willing to start the process of being intentional. Your willingness to follow God's leading and to resist the patten of aggressiveness, divisiveness, and demeaning may open doors to ministering to that person that you never thought possible. Living what you're for instead of stating what you're against will take you a long way. 
 So let us dare to face our fears, to admit our impatience and thus, to start fresh. Beginning from the place of being right or beginning from the place of loving well. Where we start from makes all the difference. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"His love to us counted nothing too costly, too difficult, too grievous. Let us likewise show our love to Christ: nothing too hard, or too expensive, or too hazardous, or too grievous. Let us cross our carnal inclinations to follow Him in painful and costly service."
        - David Clarkson in Voices From The Past

Monday, April 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If your faith stops at the cross - it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ! 

You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you - but one who is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship! 

You need a Savior...
  who can hear your prayers,  
  to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned, 
  to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.

You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need. 

You need a Christ who can be a real friend - loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses. 

You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past - but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.

A dying Christ alone will not satisfy our heart. We must have the living One for our friend! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us! And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead - and is now alive for ever and ever!"
                                           - Charles H. Spurgeon in Morning By Morning

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Why I Need The Resurrection

 It's Easter. All over the world, people are celebrating the arrival of Spring and the hope of new life. Churches are holding services to remember the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead. I've heard the story all my life of how He came to live a sinless life and then died for the sins of mankind so that we'd have eternal hope. But somehow, over the last few years, the Easter story is taking on new meaning for me. 
 Because I'm realizing that the resurrection wasn't just for a one-time act of triumph over eternal destruction and sin but that God is still in the resurrecting business today. My resurrection didn't just happen when I accepted Christ's offer of eternal life...I still need a resurrection today! And will tomorrow...and the day after that...and so on. Until I one day reach my glorified state in Heaven, I will constantly be needing to have new life bred into the dead places of my heart. There are still empty and dark spaces where His love has not yet been allowed to enter and I need His promise of renewal more than ever. I feel the deep effectings of such a broken condition and desire to have them changed by the transforming and redeeming hands of God. I am in the winter season, waiting for the signs of a spiritual spring. But as I look to His ultimate victory on the cross, I see that I have no reason to despair that I am not as far along in my transformation as I would perhaps like. He who began a good work will complete what He started. This is what the message of Easter is and why it matters so much. As a quote I read recently states, 
 "The resurrection of Christ means everything sad is going to come untrue, and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost."
As the flower bulbs burst forth from the cold, dark earth - as I am reminded that He is alive and will be forever - as I greet gladly the arrival of spring and its promise - I ask God to bring new life to my soul. I ask Him to turn all of the messy places into a beautiful garden filled with the scents and colors of His love. I ask Him to fulfill His promise in that He, the resurrected King, can and will resurrect me. 


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The Son of God was crucified: I am not ashamed - because it is shameful.
The Son of God died: it is immediately credible - because it is silly.
He was buried, and rose again: it is certain - because it is impossible."
            - St. Augustine 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious souls cost Him crucifixion."
                         - C. S. Lewis



Thursday, April 13, 2017

What Would I Have Done?

 If I had walked this earth when Jesus did, what would I have done? This question has driven deep into my heart as of late. I have spent a great deal of time pondering what my own responses would've been if I had witness what the disciples did. What would I have said? What would I have done? 
Perhaps you would like to ponder with me as I place myself back in the time of Christ: 

What would I have done if I'd met Jesus? Would I have greeted Him with the eyes of faith and seen Him as the Savior? Or would I have turned a cold shoulder and been one of those calling for His death? 

What would I have done if I'd seen Jesus performing miracles and teaching radical truths of forgiveness and deliverance? If I'd watched Him touch the blind man, tell the woman caught in adultery not to sin anymore, heard Him speak to the Samaritan at the well and reveal her personal history... if I'd been there to see Him calm the storm...or even rise from the dead...would I have believed Him? 

What would I do if I found myself beginning to embrace the teachings of a rabbi-figure named Jesus who was turning the cultural norm of the day on its head? If I knew that following Him would cost me everything, would I still go?

Would I have failed to pray with Him as did the disciples in the garden as He sweat drops of blood and pleaded for His cup to be taken from Him? Would my desire for rest have robbed me of the ability to watch with the Savior as He endured such anguish as this for my sins? 

What would I say or think if I had to witness the crucifixion of the Savior? Would I have been among His close devoted followers, or would I have been in the neutral crowd? Worse yet, would I have been among those jeering and wishing for the release of a hated robber named Barabbas? Would I have turned down my own chance at salvation just to be rid of a man who failed to deliver on His supposed promise to free my people from the Romans? 

Would I have missed Jesus for who He really was? Would I have been so focused like some on the needs at hand that I would neglect the simple fact that the Provider of all things was right there? 

Would I have acknowledged the miracle that was the physical manifestation of the Son of God? Or would I have walked away? 

I will never completely know the answers to these since I was not alive then. But this thing I know - these questions must drive me to live today intentionally. To walk my life-journey in greater faith and daring. To believe outside of my own human wisdom so that my eyes can truly see God for who He is and what He's doing in the world. I don't want to miss the miracles He's performing in every day life today simply because I'm too "busy" to notice. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why He Came

As we journey through this Passion Week and reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I think it only fitting to remind ourselves of why He truly came...


"Why did Jesus come into the world? To call sinners - those who know they have a terminal disease, those who are helpless and desperate, those who are hurting, those who are hungry and thirsty, those who are weak and weary, those who are broken, those whose lives are shattered, those who are desperate - sinners who know they are unworthy yet long to be forgiven...Thus Jesus came to expose us all as sinners. That is why His message is so penetrating, so forceful. It tore our self-righteousness away and exposed our evil hearts so that we might see ourselves as sinners."
                        - John MacArthur in The Gospel According To Jesus

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"We who profess and hold the precious faith of Christ in truth, do we also make Him our all in all? By our tongue He may be heard, but in our lives and deeds, is He to be found? As Savior many will own Him, but as Lord few do know Him...He that desires anything above Him, equally with Him, or without Him, shall never obtain Him. He will be won only when you seek Him with all your soul and strength or He will not be won at all."
                                 - Samuel Ward in Voices From The Past

Monday, April 10, 2017

Constant Dependence

"It is not needful that the Lord should raise up a mountain in my way, to stop my purpose; if he only withdraw a certain kind of imperceptible support, which in general I have, and use it without duly considering whose it is, then, in a moment, I feel myself unstrung and disabled, like a ship that has lost her masts, and cannot proceed till he is pleased to refit me and renew my strength. My pride and propensity to self-dependence render frequent changes of this kind necessary to me, or I should soon forget what I am, and sacrifice to my own drag. Therefore, upon the whole, I am satisfied, and see it best that I should be absolutely poor and penniless in myself, and forced to depend upon the Lord for the smallest things as well as the greatest."
                         - John Newton 


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you."
                     - George Mueller 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...It's actually down in the mess that things get good...If you can't find happiness in the ugliness, you're not going to find it in the beauty, either. " 
                     - Joanna Gaines in The Magnolia Story

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The life of faith seems so simple and easy in theory, that I can point it out to others in few words: but in practice it is very difficult; and my advances are so slow, that I hardly dare say I get forward at all. It is a great thing indeed to have the spirit of a little child, so as to be habitually afraid of taking a single step without leading."
                            - John Newton 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I think the greatness of trials is to be estimated rather by the impression they make upon our spirits, than by their outward appearance. The smallest will be too heavy for us if we are left to grapple with it in our own strength, or rather weakness: and if the Lord is pleased to put forth his power in us, he can make the heaviest light. A lively impression of his love, or of his sufferings for us, or of the glories within the veil, accompanied with the due sense for the misery from which we are redeemed; these thoughts will enable us to be not only submissive, but even joyful, in tribulations. When faith is in exercise, though the flesh will have its feelings, the spirit will triumph over them."
                         - John Newton

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What God Calls Us To

"What God calls us to do is always impossible. Impossible, that is, without His help. It is always too big for us, too demanding. The price is too high. Yet He calls us to count not our lives dear to ourselves."
                         - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness



Monday, April 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Unbelief is continually starting objections, magnifying and multiplying difficulties. But faith in the power and promises of God inspires noble simplicity, and casts every care upon him, who is able and has engaged to support and provide." 
                    - John Newton

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If you and I have to pass through the furnace of affliction or sorrow, of losses or failure, then let us submit ourselves to the hand of God. Let us not question either His mercy or His goodness. We must often endure the chisel of affliction, as God carves us into His image. We desire to be godlike in character. Remember that God only afflicts for our good. Like the surgeon, God does not hurt willingly - but only of necessity. 
In our times of trouble, He would have us run into His arms and tell Him all our troubles, our questionings, our heartaches!"
                     - Charles Naylor

Friday, March 31, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Could we acquiesce with cheerfulness in the dispensations of an unerring providence, we should at once feel a spark of celestial happiness enkindled in our hearts. But this is a state of which frail humanity comes far short, at best. We wish to have this or that desire complied with and think that, could we but obtain the accomplishment of our wishes, we should be blessed indeed. But it is best they should not be granted; the wisdom and goodness of God assure us it is so. And yet, because they are denied, we sink into despondency and grief. My dear friend, I believe that if we could view things as they really are, we should find reason to say, 'The Lord has done all things well; mercy and peace go before Him continually.' Afflictions are sent for our profit, and if we do not profit by them, the fault is entirely our own."
                       - Susan Huntington in Seasons Of The Heart

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I have only to be thankful for what He has already shown me, and to wait upon Him for more. It is my part to commit myself to Him as the Physician of sin-sick souls, not to prescribe to Him how He shall treat me. To begin, carry on, and perfect the cure, is His part."
                     - John Newton

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Release

 Letting go is tough. But so much of life depends on that simple concept of release. 
Sometimes we don't even realize the baggage we are dragging along the journey of life. We think we've let go of certain things that have long bothered or distressed us but every so often we hit situations that remind us of a friendship gone cold, a loved one's selfish behavior, somebody's hurtful words, a painful move that had to transpire, or an unexplained awkward ending that was never resolved. We think we've moved on, but the truth is, we never fully did. 
 It's become apparent to me recently that I've been carrying unresolved situations for too long, and it's affecting my relationships and enjoyment of my life now. Part of my mind and heart is still stuck back in situations that ended badly years ago, and while maybe I've forgiven the people involved, I've never totally put the issue to rest. There are people who long ago stopped communicating with me (for whatever reason) or I distanced communication with them due to poor choices in their life...and yet, their phone number is still in my phone. Others I've kept mulling over wording for a possible letter or some form of re-establishing a connection that most likely will never happen. I'm still holding out some hope that time maybe changes these folks minds or that I can somehow help or  influence situations that, in reality, there is no investment or relationship to be had anymore. The other people have moved on. Even God has moved on and is doing many new things all around me. But I'm still holding on. I'm refusing to catch up to where God actually is now. 
 See, for those of us who love helping people, it's often hard to know when to stop. We can often hold out in circumstances with people that we should probably back out of simply because we think we can rescue them, save them, fix them, or change their situation. We think it would be unloving to set boundaries and step away when those boundaries have been crossed. We see it as insensitive if we told the people that our help seems to be no longer needed or appreciated.We agonize over the fact that while it may not be best for us to stay in the situation, somehow we think we need to. Maybe things will turn around. We feel badly that we can't see a story through to the end, instead of realizing that God may have only wanted us to help for a season. Perhaps He wants somebody else to take over where we left off in  the process of helping. But we don't want to see it that way. We think we - and only we - can make the difference in certain situations or people's lives. And so we stay. We put ourselves in a bad place because we are overly caring about other people's circumstances or feelings.  We don't seem to be able to tell ourselves that it's okay to let go. 
 But I'm starting to see now just how detrimental this can be. When you keep holding on with closed fists, your hands cannot receive the blessings and miracles of what God is doing today. When you're stuck in the past, you live in vain regrets over things you could've or should've said or done, and it takes strength out of relationships and situations you honestly can be helping in the now. When you allow previous hurts to keep driving decisions or choices you make today, you begin to live in fear of them happening again...and again...and again. You miss out on so much because you're still back thinking that the old might come back or a fresh start in a bad situation might happen. All the while, others have probably forgotten or moved on entirely and you're still reflecting on how you did (or didn't) say such-and-such, how you probably could've (or should've) kept going instead of backing out, etc. More importantly, God has moved on and we refused to come along with Him. 
 Loving others is important. Nobody should be pushed way who truly needs our help and prayers! But there comes a point where we limit our productivity for God when we don't let go soon enough. Sadly, there are situations that just don't turn out the way we thought they would. People maybe asked for our help and we gave it, but it turned out to not be what the people wanted to hear. Relationships where we thought there was agreement turned out to have little in common at all. Perhaps even those we supposed there was shared life-purpose ended up leaving us because they couldn't follow God to the extent that we felt called to. There are so many situations that can happen where we invest ourselves into others and the return of investment is minimal at best. We put in 80% effort and get 20% results...or maybe less. It is at this point that we must begin to listen to when God says, move on. 
 While it may take a very hard conversation to explain to the other party why you're backing out, the maximizing of your giftings and future serving others depends on it taking place. Lately, I've had a string of hard endings like this. I've had to end communication with some people, stop trying to reach folks who long moved past me, tell others my help is no longer affective for them and that I pray they find someone better to meet their needs. I've even had to delete numbers out of my phone of people who were once close to me. So many memories (good and bad) have had to be put to rest. But this process of shutting the door on yesterday, leaving what happened buried once and for all in the grave of time, turning over the hurts of others to the hand of God, has been healing of sorts for me. Healing in that I'm no longer responsible for what happened. I no longer have to keep holding onto some little thread of hope that things things might have switched. I've had to get to the point where I see that it's no longer expedient for me that I continue in situations where I do not have any influence anymore. (Or maybe I never did in the first place!) 
 In order to be in step with God, I must forget what's behind and rather press into what's ahead. I must catch up to where God is. So many good things are happening in my life (and most likely yours, too) but if we're like those runners in a race who constantly look back over their shoulder to see whose behind them, we will slow down ourselves and limit our chances at succeeding at being the best us we can be. We will limit our ability to live our one life well. 
 I'm to the point where I want to be fully invested in only those people and situations where I can truly affect positive change. If the person isn't wanting to be helped (regardless of if they tell you so), if somebody honestly does not want to change (even if they say they do), if you're stuck in situations where it's doing greater harm to you to stay in it than it is helpful to the other people, don't be afraid to seek God's blessing and walk away in total peace of mind, knowing you can no longer be responsible for their feelings or choices. Let God do the rescuing, the saving, the fixing, the helping. We can pray. We can love. But there is such a thing as caring too much. And that is what we must be careful about. 
 I don't know what it is that God may be asking you to release and let go of. But I do want to encourage you to take that step, hard as it is. So many blessings and good things will come as a result of us doing so. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Longing Soul's Satisfaction

"...They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way...hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses...
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."
                     - Psalm 107:4-6, 8-9


Monday, March 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"No one has ever lived, who has not had his times of discouragement, heaviness, sorrow, and disappointment. Cares and afflictions come to all. 
Life has its adversities - it must needs have them. Adversity, pain, sorrow, and disappointment, are the lathe upon which God shapes us. They are the grinding wheel which grinds and smoothes us. They are the polishing wheel which makes us shine. 
If we can never be happy until we are so situated that nothing exists which may tend to render us unhappy, then we shall have little happiness in life. 
Happiness does not come from a life of ease and indolence. It is not the result of the absence of obstacles and difficulties. Happiness comes from triumphing over them. Therefore the song of true happiness often arises from the soul which undergoes many adversities. 
Dear soul, Jesus knows all about your troubles. He knows every heartache, every difficulty, everything you must overcome, everything you must bear. Trusting in His grace, relying on His help, you shall soon find your heart filling again with melody, for the clouds will pass away!"
                     - Charles Naylor

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand."
                        - St. Augustine

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...He will mix mercy with every affliction. Like sugar in our tea, it sometimes lies at the bottom and needs stirring up! But there is always mercy there!
...There is sweetness in the bitterest cup which the Father gives us! Let us therefore look for the sugar as we sip the bitter potion!"
                         - Charles H. Spurgeon in Morning By Morning

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Fruitful branches, those actually abiding in the True Vine, are in the hands of a loving and gracious Vinedresser. As He carefully prunes and tends us, there may be some pain in the cutting. But we can be certain that He is doing it for our own good so that we will bear much fruit for His glory."
                        - John MacArthur in The Gospel According To Jesus

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Facing The Inner Atheist

 I'm coming to an obvious but startling conclusion: there is such a thing as "fake faith." One can honestly say (and convince themselves) that they believe without ever truly doing so. And I'm beginning to see how often this has been the case with me. 
 As a Christian, I am finding out more and more how hard living in true faith really is. It's so easy to say that we trust God, that we believe His best for our lives, that we have even accepted His grace for ourselves and believe Him to be our Savior...all the while living as if He doesn't exist. Choosing in daily things to deny Him as Lord of our lives and deciding that our own plans are better than His. 
 Great doubts even can trouble our souls...and yet, we still suspend our disbelief when we walk into the church doors. We sing of His love and of our desire to worship Him, we listen to the sermon and agree with what is said, we enjoy the fellowship and prayer of fellow travelers on the journey to grace...but when we walk out of the doors, we pick up our fears, our doubts, our disbelief - and we forfeit great joy and contented peace because we do not really know Him at all. 
 So often, I see how my old self - the uncrucified me - plays the part of Judas and walks with God everywhere, yet still refuses to fully bow the heart to His sovereign authority. I want to be in control...dragging regrets from years prior, thinking I know what should happen in the present, and fearing greatly what is to come in the future...all the while saying that I believe. But never fully addressing my unbelief. 
 Authentic faith is hard. So hard. It takes more bravery than I ever thought would be needed just to face the daily fears (mountains of them at times) with simple submission to the One who has written my story since before time began. The inner atheist in me is constantly raising its head and trying to tell me to question God. To question who He is, what He's done, what He has in store. It attempts to convince me that His plans are not reasonable...but whoever said I had to figure out God's thinking?! Me. I told myself this for so long...and I was wrong. 
 After years of listening to my inner falsehoods, it's hard to learn to talk truth to them instead. To face the fears of unknowns, of what ifs, of how comes, of whys takes everything in me oftentimes. Perhaps you know the feeling, the struggle. 
 Perhaps you're in the same place as me - just realizing that doubt has kept grace from running deep, that fear has kept faith from blossoming to its full potential. That blessings have been missed because the eyes of the heart were blind to the simple truth that everything is grace...that we can't change a single thing by worrying our one short life away. That we pass by daily miracles and demonstrations of Him because we're too busy trying to figure out what He's up to and what we should do about it. Perhaps we've accepted Him as Savior but have resisted Him as Lord. We've fought His right to providentially and sovereignly orchestrate His plan to completion. And thus, our faith has proven fake. It has turned out to be no faith at all. 
 Truthfully, God doesn't want us to do anything about His plan. Only to submit to it. Only to rest in it. Only to accept and acknowledge that He is good and we are forever loved. His plan may include great pain, great sacrifice, great uncertainty from our point of view. But such seasons of heartache, loss, and obscured revelation only reveal our further need for Him and teach us that the only way to truly grow is to be stretched and tested. Faith can only be proven genuine when it is tried. And God knows this. 
 But can we learn to be okay with it?! That's the real question. Can we learn to let go of our need to figure everything out and instead come to the profound conclusion that, "no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11)?
 My inner atheist needs to be laid to rest and subjected to the Redeemer's rule. My old self must die daily, hard though it is. I must learn to walk toward the things that paralyze my soul the most and say, God has already walked through this; I don't have to be afraid. 
 I see now that God can do much in a willing and submitted life - a life that is given over to the good and gracious dealings of God. A life that is rich in what matters. And such authentic faith can reveal the love of God to a searching world in the biggest way possible. But such a place of surrender can never happen until I learn to let go of my disbelief. Until I don't merely suspend it, but allow God to do away with it for good. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Afflictions are far from being signs of Christ's hatred. Many times they are evidences of of His love. The people of God only lack what is bad for them. God has promised to withhold no good thing...you can conclude that if you lack something of enjoyment, it is withheld since it is not best for you. It is no defect in the love of Christ, but a defect in what you are asking for."
                      - David Clarkson in Voices From The Past

Monday, March 20, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I no longer believe the myth that trials are a curse. Trials are an opportunity. They are an invitation to do good works to glorify our Father in heaven, to transform our lives from the inside out, and to drive us into the arms and footsteps of Jesus."
                                  - Laura Story in When God Doesn't Fix It




Saturday, March 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Wilderness is sometimes the only place we can hear the voice of God. Jesus went into the wilderness to let His belovedness soak in. Do you do the same thing? A lot of us curse the wilderness. Something must be wrong, we think. We must be sinning. But what if the wilderness is a gifted time to learn your belovedness? ...God sees the wilderness as a special place between us and Him. What if we stopped rejecting it?"
                  - Jeff Bethke in It's Not What You Think

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"May this trial be as a lattice through which Jesus will show himself to your soul."
                   - Ruth Bryan in Seasons of the Heart

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Every true Christian has his winter and summer seasons. It is only in that blessed country, toward which we are hastening, that there is one unclouded day. With respect to myself, I have reason to bless the Lord for the storm as well as the calm. That is best for the soul which keeps it low at the foot of the cross, loathing itself and trusting only in Jesus, sinking before Him in order to rise in Him, who is our righteousness and strength."
                     - Sarah Hawkes in Seasons of the Heart

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends."
                      - George Mueller



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The God who made us does not then leave us to fend for ourselves. He is still Emmanuel, 'God with us,' even when to all appearances we stand alone against frightening forces."
                    - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"When we are tempted to murmur and repine under the cross, faith will assure that though the way is rough, the end of the journey will be sweet."
                - Thomas Manton  in Voices From The Past

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Perhaps there have been a dozen different things today that were not joyous, but grievous to you. And though you feel ashamed of feeling them so much, and hardly like to admit their having been so trying, and would not think of dignifying them as chastening, yet, if they come under the Lord's definition, He not only knows all about them, but they were, every one of them, chastening from His hand - neither to be disposed and called 'just nothing' when all the while they did grieve you, nor to be wearied of, because they are working out blessing to you and glory to Him. Every one of them has been an unrecognized token of His love and interest in you...
The particular annoyance that befell you this morning, the vexatious words that met your ear and grieved your spirit, the disappointment that was His appointment for today, the slight but hindering ailment, the presence of someone who is a grief of mind to you. Whatever in this day seems not joyous but grievous, is linked in the good pleasure of His goodness, with a corresponding afterward of peaceable fruit, the very seed from which, if you only do not choke it, this shall spring and ripen. If we set ourselves to watch the Lord's dealings with us, we shall often be able to detect a most beautiful correspondence and proportion between each individual chastening and its own resulting 'afterward.' The habit of thus watching and expecting will be very comforting and a great help to quiet trust when some new chastening is sent, for then we shall consider it as the herald and earnest of a new 'afterward.'"
         - Frances Ridley Havergal in Seasons Of The Heart 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The humble soul endeavors more how to glorify God in afflictions, than how to get out of them. Daniel, the three children, the apostles, and those worthies of who this world was not worthy were such. They were not seeking to get out of their afflictions but were concerned for the glory of God. They were willing to be anything and bear anything that God might be glorified...The humble soul says, 'Lord, keep down my sins, and keep up my heart to honor you in all my troubles. Though my burdens are doubled and troubles multiplied, help me to honor You by trusting, waiting, submitting to You, and I shall sing my cares away and say, it is enough.'"
                                          - Thomas Brooks in Voices Of The Past

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Those whose lives have had the deepest spiritual impact in the world are those who have suffered."
                  - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path Of Loneliness

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Three Years

 Three years ago, on this day, I began this blog with the intent of helping the hurting find hope. I realized that God, through my own painful journey, had given me a message that I couldn't keep to myself. I knew there were many others who struggle as I do and who need to hear the words of life spoken to them in their darkest hour. I expected and hoped that God would change lives.
 What I didn't expect was that this simple act of penning my thoughts and sharing my desire to dive deeper into grace would change me! Through this forum, God has allowed me to be inspired, to love more deeply, to share more freely, and to discover relationships with others who want the same thing. God has also used this avenue to help me to realize that hiding isn't an option for me anymore. I can't run from my fears and my failures as I once did. Masks cannot be an escape for me to disguise my weakness. I must be open. The life of grace-living is one that must be embraced in full - and that includes the hard parts. Walking with God isn't just for the good times - He must be God of my life in the joyous as well as the difficult seasons. For, if I trust His goodness, I must trust it to carry me through anything that befalls me along the way. He will grant all that is necessary... including the ability to say "yes" when my human nature wants to yell "no." 
 I am eager to anticipate God's working in yet another year of this blog's message-giving. It does and will continue to exist for the sole purpose of drawing the needy, the broken, the weak ones among us deeper into a knowledge of the grace of God which alone can mend all that is wrong within us. 
 Thank you to everyone of you readers for taking this journey and daring deeply with me. Thank you for wanting to see through to God and for accepting the words of this girl in Alaska as (hopefully) words of comfort and peace to your sin-sick soul. I trust that God will continue to use what is shared here as a source of hope for those seeking for Him. 
Most importantly, thank you, Jesus, for being my God through all of the twists and turns of an uncertain life and for being a Savior to a world that is fallen.